Summer Reading Time!

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Summer Break has begun! Inly’s last day was on Friday, and the kids are making plans for camps, sports, going to the beach, and summer reading.  They have their official summer reading lists which include fiction and nonfiction, newly published novels, childhood classics, biographies, graphic novels, and books about sports, science, and animals. Sometimes the kids will ask why they need a reading list if they are planning to read anyway: a fair question. I tell them that the list might introduce them to books they don’t already know about. Of course, large bookstores will promote bestsellers, but many excellent children’s books are not given prominent placement. We give our students a long list in the hope that everyone will find something they will enjoy reading over the summer. The list should not be burdensome, but rather a gateway to new stories, authors, and ideas.

Although the list is too long for a blog post, I have selected new favorites from each category to share here. Along the way are pictures of Inly students which were taken during our annual “Drop Everything and Read” hour last week.

Picture Books

My Pet Wants a Pet by Elise Broach (A fun read-aloud a boy who gets a new puppy – and then his puppy wants his own pet.)

Floaty by John Himmelman (Grouchy Mr. Raisin finds a basket on his front doorstep – and finds a dog that can’t stay on the ground!)

The Little Red Fort by Brenda Maier (a fun tribute to creative young problem solvers)

Sun by Sam Usher (the third title in Usher’s Seasons with Grandad series)

New Readers

Stella Diaz Has Something to Say by Angela Dominguez

Here’s a student review of Stella Diaz:

Stella Diaz is a funny and lighthearted chapter book, that you will read again and again. It is a heartwarming and lovable book, that is a great summer read!”

Polly Diamond and the Magic Book by Alice Kuipers

Big Foot and Little Foot by Ellen Potter

Rosetown by Cynthia Rylant

Middle Grade Novels

The Miscalculations of Lighting Girl by Stacy McAnulty

Breakout by Kate Messner

Stanley Will Probably Be Fine by Sally Pla

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

Front Desk by Kelly Yang

Happy Summer!

 

 

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Two New Books and Ten Toddler Picks

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I have two new books to recommend this week….

Blue Rider is a picture book by Geraldo Valerio. This is a wordless story, told in double page spreads beginning with an opening cityscape of blue and tan buildings. On the following page, a girl is looking out from one of those buildings, but she blends so seamlessly into the picture that you may not see her at first. When she steps outside, though, she becomes “bluer.” The people on the sidewalk, many of whom are looking down at their phones or wearing headphones, remain muted, but as you move further into the story, the blues begin to pop. The girl finds a blue book on the sidewalk, and like Max’s bedroom window in Where the Wild Things Are, the book is a portal to an unfamiliar and dazzling world. The pages of her new book literally explode into color – into pictures that start as what are clearly horses and buildings. But as you turn the pages, the images are deconstructed – they seem to fly apart. The more I look at it, the more magical it becomes. It’s definitely a book that belongs in every art teacher’s classroom.

I also read Front Desk by Kelly Yang this week. The middle grade novel is collecting starred reviews so it moved to the top of my list – a good move. Yang’s book, based on her own childhood experience, is wonderful and timely. Mia Tang is a ten-year-old who immigrated from China with her parents, the managers of the Calavista Motel in California. Since Mia’s parents are busy with cleaning rooms and fixing broken machinery, Mia has sort of taken over the front desk responsibilities – greeting guests and talking to the hotel’s long-term regulars who quickly become friends. From there and from her desk at school, she witnesses racism, cruelty, and straight-out lies, that hurt her and her financially struggling parents. Mia is a hard-working, honest, and determined young girl who begins to discover the power of her voice – and her pen. I strongly recommend Yang’s novel to kids between the ages of 9 and 12.

As I was working on this summer’s school reading list, it occurred to me that I’ve never included a dedicated list for of new books for our toddler community. That needed to change – and this year’s school-wide list begins with a list of books perfect for sharing with a toddler.

TEN FOR TODDLERS

Good Day For a Hat by T. Nat Fuller

This is the “official” Inly toddler book of summer. Get your sun hat and enjoy the story of a bear who can’t figure out which hat to wear!

 

Grains of Sand by Sibylle Delacroix

After a day at the beach, a little girl and her brother imagine what would happen if they planted sand.

Ducks Away! by Mem Fox

A counting book featuring adorable ducks who keep falling into the river. Of course, they are all reunited with their mother.

The Tiptoeing Tiger by Philippa Leathers

Little Tiger desperately wants to scare someone, so he tiptoes through the forest….

Baby Bear’s Book of Tiny Tales by David McPhail

Four short – and very sweet – stories about a little bear who finds things, including a book, a flower, a baby bird, and a friend.

Pignic by Matt Phelan

Bring this story about a family of pigs having a picnic to your own picnic!

New Shoes by Chris Raschka

After a hole is found in a young child’s sneaker, it’s time for a shoe shopping adventure.

Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel

A colorful celebration of animals, shapes, and colors

Bus! Stop! by James Yang

After a young boy misses his bus, he watches all kind of vehicles go by, including a covered wagon and a boat.

Still Stuck by Shinsuke Yoshitake

A little boy literally gets stuck in his shirt, but he wants to figure it out by himself. A laugh out loud story!

Happy Reading!

The Top Ten Inly Library Books of 2017-2018…..

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All of the signs of the end of the school year are there: field trips, progress reports, plans for field day, and in my corner of the school: collecting library books and lots of shelving!  It’s fun to look at the stats and see who checked out the most books, who has the dubious distinction of returning the most overdue book (checked out in October!), and of course, which books circulated the most.

Here are the most popular Inly books of the past school year – listed in order from “youngest to oldest.”

The Elephant and Piggie series
by Mo Willems

Press Start: the Super Rabbit Boy series
by Thomas Flintham

The Dog Man series
by Dav Pilkey

Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt
by Ben Claton

Smile
by Raina Telgemeier

Real Friends
by Shannon Hale

Brave
by Svetlana Chmakova

All’s Faire in Middle School
by Victoria Jamieson

Ghostopolis
by Doug TenNapel

Black Panther: The Young Prince
by Ronald L. Smith

In other news….

I read Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed last week and can understand all of the buzz – and starred reviews- for this middle grade novel. It’s the story of Amal, a young Pakistani girl who lives in a small village with her parents and four younger sisters. Amal loves school and hopes to become a teacher someday, but her responsibilities at home prevent her from attending school regularly. One day, tired from working so hard, she mistakenly insults the son of the wealthiest man in town and is forced into indentured service. When Amal arrives at the Khan estate and sees their opulent lifestyle, it is eye-opening. Living with the Khans gives Amal a perspective on gender and class differences – and access to their personal library.

There are so many ways teachers could use Saeed’s novel in class discussion. Pair it with learning about Malala Yousafzai or with Andrea Davis Pinkney’s novel, The Red Pencil. Both novels capture the power of education to empower young women.

And finally….

We have a new friend in our backyard. She is made of marble and, before moving to Scituate, she stood reading her marble book on someone’s lawn in Pennsylvania. She was there for a long time – since the early 1900s. I love her already. Just looking at her makes me wonder about everything she’s seen. I also think she looks like a statue Mary Lennox would find behind the locked garden door in The Secret Garden….

 

May Miscellany

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Last Sunday, we went to hear John Lithgow speak at the Kennedy Library. I had forgotten how many roles he’s played in movies and on TV: Terms of Endearment, Shrek, Third Rock From the Sun, and most recently, Winston Churchill in The Crown. As you might expect, Lithgow is an engaging raconteur. I especially enjoyed hearing his childhood memories of Yellow Springs, a small village near Dayton. “It was idyllic,” he said, “a midwest idyll.” He recalled trips to the Glen Helen Nature Preserve and Clifton Gorge, places my dad still visits. One of the most interesting things he told the audience is that, as a child, Coretta Scott was his babysitter – before she was Coretta Scott King. Yellow Springs is the home of Antioch College where Scott was a student. Lithgow said that he only learned of his famous babysitter as an adult when he met Mrs. King at a function.

Lithgow also talked about writing children’s books, telling the large crowd that he enjoyed making up stories for his younger sister when they were growing up. Later, when he had his own children, he wrote music for his son which led to a performance of children’s music and stories at Carnegie Hall. Lithgow was honest about capitalizing on his “Third Rock fame” to indulge his many interests, but what came through most clearly was his love of the written word in all its forms.

Yesterday, my husband and I were in Westport, Massachusetts where we found The Partners Village Store, a combination bookstore, gift shop, and cafe. While the bookstore is small, it is carefully curated.

I found a book of essays that is right in my “interest sweet spot.”  Where We Lived is by Henry Allen, who, I learned from the book, was “Intense. Mercurial. Bearded. A Marine veteran of Vietnam.” He was an art critic for The Washington Post for nearly 30 years and won a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2000. This book includes short essays about the many places the Allen family has lived, beginning in 1557 in Wales through his family’s 1977 move to Takoma Park in Maryland. I am interested in exploring how place informs our identity, and I happily added Allen’s book to the toppling stack by my bedside.

You may have heard about the upcoming PBS series, The Great American Read. I’ve heard it advertised on NPR, but only checked out the website today. It’s an eight-part series that “explores and celebrates the power of reading, told through the prism of America’s best-loved novels (as chosen in a national survey).”  I’m all for a program that celebrates books and reading, but the list of 100 novels raises questions for me. There are obvious choices like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Charlotte’s Web, but the list also includes Fifty Shades of Grey and The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks.  I can’t wrap my head around Tom Sawyer being compared to Fifty Shades of Grey. It seems wrong for Wilbur and Charlotte to compete with The Shack by William Young.  I plan to tune in and assume right will prevail in the end!

Here’s a link to the whole list:

http://www.pbs.org/the-great-american-read/books/#/

Last week, I read Bob, the new middle grade novel by two of the most respected and talented authors of children’s books – Rebecca Stead and Wendy Mass.

It’s the story of a girl named Livy who, five years before the story opens, left a little creature named Bob at her grandmother’s house in Australia. Now ten-years-old, Livy returns to visit her grandmother and finds Bob in a closet where he has been looking forward to seeing her again. Livy has nearly forgotten the details of her first trip to Australia, but she quickly reconnects with the lovable Bob and agrees to help him figure out who he is and where he’s from. Told in alternating chapters from Bob’s and Livy’s points of view, it’s a sweet story of friendship and magic.

The best new picture book I read last week is Doll-E 1.0 by Shanda McCloskey. If you know a fan of Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty, this would be a good book to check out of the library. Charlotte is a tech-saavy kid. She helps her parents with their devices, and her bedroom looks like she’s planning to be the next Mark Zuckerberg. But Charlotte’s mom and dad begin to be concerned that their daughter is “too techy” so they buy her a doll. The doll seems like any other low-tech doll, but Charlotte makes a few changes that make her – and her parents – happy.

Finally, some of Inly’s younger students have discovered the Dog Man books…..

Happy Reading!

 

 

 

 

The First Sign of Spring – New Books!

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Flowers may not be blooming yet, but spring in the book publishing world means early March. The first flowers have pages rather than petals!

Here are five standout new picture books –

Franny’s Father Is a Feminist by Rhonda Leet

A sweet story about Franny, a little girl whose father knows that “girls can do anything boys can do.”  The cheery cartoon-like illustrations by Megan Walker add to the spirit of this book about what it means to be a feminist. Franny enjoys taking her bicycle apart and putting it back together, going fishing with her dad, playing hockey, and going to ballet class.  Her father supports all of her interests – and teaches her about Sally Ride and Malala. A fun book for young feminists and their dads!

The Boy and the Whale by Mordecai Gerstein

Over the past year and a half, there has been a necessary and responsive emphasis on children’s books that foster empathy in young readers. The Boy and the Whale, Gerstein’s new picture book which was published late last year is a good one to add to your collection of books that convey courage and sacrifice. In a setting that looks to be someplace in Latin America, a boy and his father lose their only fishing net when a whale becomes tangled in it. Although his father is understandably concerned about the net, the boy is determined to save the whale.  At great risk, the boy uses his fishing knife to free the giant whale. The pictures add to the dramatic intensity – and, of course, there is a happy ending.

Florette by Anna Walker

There are moments when I’m opening a new picture book, that I’m brought back to the joy I felt as a child when a character leapt right into my heart. That’s the response I had to Florette. Mae, the little girl at the center of the story, misses her garden after her family moves to the city: “Mae missed playing with her friends, listening to the birds in the apple trees, and gathering things for her treasure jar.” Ultimately, she finds a plant shop called Florette and new friends to share her love for the natural world. Beginning with the beautiful endpapers, Florette is a magical book about learning to grow in a new place.

Harriet Gets Carried Away by Jessie Sima

Jessie Sima, the author of Not Quite Narwhal, has written another picture book that begs to be read aloud. Harriet is not the kind of child who wears a costume only on October 31. She “wore costumes all the time.”  The opening pages show Harriet in a dentist chair wearing a dinosaur costume and at the laundromat dressed as a ghost. On the day of her birthday party, she and her two dads go to the grocery store where Harriet is literally carried away by a group of penguins buying ice. In her fantasy (or is it real!), she follows the penguins happily at first before realizing she wants to go back home for her birthday party.  The large format cartoon-like illustrations make this the perfect book for sharing with a group of young children.

Girl Running: Bobbi Gibb and the Boston Marathon by Annette Bay Pimentel

The only nonfiction book on my list (so far), Girl Running is the true story of Bobbi Gibb who, in 1966, became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon. This was an unfamiliar story to me – and it’s an incredible one. When Gibb requested an official application for the Marathon, she received a letter stating: “…Women are not physiologically able to run twenty-six miles and furthermore the rules do not allow it.” Bobbi Gibb ran anyway and finished in three hours and twenty minutes. Micha Archer’s collage-style illustrations enhance and extend the story, especially with the clever mile markers at the bottom of the page. An inspiring story for young athletes. I’m going to save this book for a read aloud during the week leading up to the Boston Marathon.

The picture at the top of the post is of a beautiful glass object sitting on a window sill at Fallingwater, the house Frank Lloyd Wright designed in the mid-1930s. A house with spectacular views both inside and outside, and yet, the thing I loved the most was this glass. I’m off on another adventure – no blog post next weekend. But I’ll return with more pictures of beautiful things that I see along the way.

Happy Reading!

 

Nor’easter Photo Edition….

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Mother Nature got in the way of my regular Sunday posts. Our power was restored yesterday and we spent last evening clearing out the refrigerator and grocery shopping. Once again, the natural world reminded us of who’s really in charge!

Until Sunday when I can write something more substantive, here are a few pictures to enjoy:

I put the back page of the New York Times monthly kids’ section up in the library with an invitation to add to it.  Here are responses from Inly 6th graders:

Over the past week, including some disruptions from the nor’easter, the Inly Players put on a joyous and colorful production of Seussical. This event was Inly’s twelfth annual show produced by theater professionals and cast from students and community volunteers. Inspired by Dr. Seuss, the Lower Elementary students designed fantastical creatures to decorate the hallway:

In anticipation of the upcoming spring break, we have encouraged the students to check out lots of books. It’s a scary thing, I warned them, to be at home or on vacation without a pile of good books to read. Here are some of the browsers making big decisions:

I have lots of new books to look at over the next couple of days so check back on Sunday.

Happy Reading!

 

The Newbery Award and Recommendations for a Town Read…

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You may have heard that Erin Entrada Kelly’s middle grade novel, Hello, Universe, won the Newbery Medal last week for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature. Although I had read glowing reviews and the book was on the school library shelves, I had not yet read it. Of course, I regretted that it was not at the top of my list, but no time for looking back – I had a book to read!  Hello, Universe centers on four middle school students, each of them a little lonely and different from most of the other kids at school. As you can probably guess, the fates bring them together – but not in a way that you see coming. It’s a horrible act by the bully of the bunch that sets things in motion, resulting in a fast-paced, well plotted novel.

One thing I particularly enjoyed about the book is the relationship between the main character, Virgil Salinas, a quiet Filipino-American boy, and his grandmother who tells him Filipino folk tales. When things go badly for Virgil, he recalls his grandmother’s stories, and they lead him out of a dark place (literally) and help him become more confident.

As much as I enjoyed Hello, Universe, I have mixed feelings about the the three Newbery Honor books: Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut written by Derrick Barnes, Long Way Down, written by Jason Reynolds, and Piecing Me Together, written by Renée Watson.  Crown is a fabulous picture book about the central role the barber shop plays in the lives of young black boys. Long Way Down and Piecing Me Together are young adult novels. Jason Reynolds, the author of Long Way Down, is one of the most important and honored writers for young people today. His books deservedly win awards and appear on countless “best of the year” lists.  I wrote School Library Journal’s starred review for his middle grade novel, Patina, and was hopeful that book would be honored by the Newbery committee.

My disappointment is not about recognizing Long Way Down, Crown, or Piecing Me Together, but the Newbery Award gives school librarians an opportunity to highlight books for our middle grade readers.  As the calendar drew closer to the Newbery announcement, I anticipated displaying three or four middle grade novels that I could encourage kids to read. The shiny sticker really helps!  My fingers were crossed for Patina, Orphan Island, See You in the Cosmos, Beyond the Bright Sea, The War I Finally Won, or even one of the many outstanding nonfiction books published this year.

Although I can’t recommend Long Way Down or Piecing Me Together to 4th and 5th grade readers, I will definitely recommend them to our middle school students. On to next year….

The middle school students are currently reading To Kill a Mockingbird and, as part of their work, they also read an article about cities and towns that participate in “one town, one book” programs, many of which select Harper Lee’s classic to spark civic conversations.  I assigned short papers to my students asking them to make a case for either To Kill a Mockingbird – or another title – to be their town’s book.

If you’re looking for recommendations for yourself – or for your town read – here are excerpts from their suggestions:

El Deafo by Cece Bell, would be the perfect town read for Scituate, Massachusetts. The fascinating story of a young girl who tries to balance her childhood and early teen years with her deafness, touches on topics people all ages in the Scituate society need to learn or further understand. For example some of the things this book include real first world problems, people with disabilities and how they are treated. The book is additionally in graphic novel form so it will be accessible for younger citizens to stay interested while learning, and an interesting shift for older citizens who are already reading regular novels in school and on their own.

Everyone knows that when you read, your vocabulary and language grows. A perfect book to nurture that growth is The Thickety. The Thickety, a fantasy by the author J. A. White, is a tale fraught with magic and adventure. The Thickety would be a great book for the adolescent and adult readers of Scituate and the book would be the new town buzz because of the amazing text that dances gracefully off the page.  White uses rich language and descriptions to fabricate the fantasy of The Thickety into an emulation of reality. Furthermore, the characters are relatable and they overcome obstacles, especially the main character Kara and her brother Taff. The book also addresses many events in life such as family loss and grappling with the concept of identity….the book´s magic is so powerful that the tale of The Thickety fills up three superb books that weave the story of Kara and Taff.

In today’s political, social, and academic climate, many people of diverse backgrounds and age believe that knowledge is power. I think that The Giver by Lois Lowry should be Hingham’s all town reading book. Because Hingham is mostly a wealthy, white, suburban town, The Giver would be a perfect book to demonstrate the breaking of conformity. Throughout The Giver, individuality, conformity, and deception are important themes. This book will definitely draw in teenage readers, specifically for the “breaking the system” aspect of the plot. The Giver also appeals to adults who are thinking about the future of our world. In addition to how interesting and entertaining the plot of The Giver is, this novel in particular makes people realize the importance of diversity and individuality. When we think about all of the injustices and catastrophes in world, this novel makes us think about if we how far we would go for peace. For example, would we sacrifice our freedom of appearance, hobbies, and language for the chance to possibly eliminate bullying? Would we sacrifice the joy of love or family to never have to experience heartbreak or divorce? 

And a picture….

I was in Woods Hole yesterday, and we parked near the town library. It looks like a library out of a storybook…

Happy Reading!